FAQs 

Common Sense Rule  

Do not accept any employment or gift or place yourself in any compromising position that you would be embarrassed to see discussed in the media or a letter to the School Board or that could negatively impact your ability to perform your Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) job responsibilities.

Background

PWCS officials and employees are expected to be knowledgeable about and conduct themselves in accordance with Regulation 503.04-1, “Conflict of Interest”, in order to promote public confidence in their impartiality and independent judgment in the discharge of their duties and to ensure that PWCS resources are appropriately used to execute their duties for the public good. In some instances, an official’s or employee’s conflict of interest may violate Virginia’s Conflict of Interests Act, which can result in criminal and civil penalties and possible termination of PWCS employment.

Definition

It is a conflict of interest for PWCS officials and employees to take advantage of their relationships or access to students, parents/guardians, employees, or others doing business with the School Division for personal benefit. It is also a conflict of interest for a PWCS official or employee to use such relationships or access  to benefit another person, business or entity, or to use their positions, PWCS resources and/or confidential information acquired by virtue of their employment with PWCS to benefit another individual or entity. Similarly, it is a conflict of interest to accept gifts, favors, and other benefits which may tend to influence an employee in the performance of his/her duties or to use one’s position as a PWCS official or employee for one’s own economic benefit.

All PWCS employees are encouraged to disclose potential conflicts of interest to PWCS in advance and to seek prior guidance regarding conduct or circumstances which raise potential concerns. Questions regarding real or potential conflicts may be submitted to the Associate Superintendent for Human Resources.

Terms Used in this Guidance

  • What is a PWCS resource?

    PWCS resources include items purchased with public funds or otherwise owned or operated by PWCS, including, but not limited to, facilities (including schools), vehicles, equipment, supplies, intellectual property, including curricula and/or other proprietary or confidential information, a PWCS communications system, or the name, logo, or mascot of PWCS, a school, sports team, or office/department. Information and records available to an official or employee by virtue of their position with the School Division are also resources.

  • What constitutes a gift?

    Under Virginia law, a gift is any gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality, loan, forbearance, or other item having monetary value. It includes services as well as gifts of transportation, local travel, lodging and meals, whether provided in-kind, by purchase of a ticket, payment in advance, or reimbursement after the expense has been incurred. It does not include gifts with minimum monetary value, food at a reception or similar function that can be consumed informally while standing or walking or where the employee is performing his/her duties, honorary degrees, certain scholarships, and other exceptions.

  • What is meant by non-school employment?

    Any employment outside PWCS, either with an employer other than PWCS (including school-related organizations like PTAs or boosters) or undertaken by oneself, or through a business one owns (in whole or in part) or operates. See Regulation 591-1, “Non-School Employment.”

Questions That May Arise in the Course of Job Duties

  • What should I do if a person I am romantically involved with or related to is placed under my supervision?

    You may not supervise another employee with whom you are romantically involved or to whom you are related. If this occurs, you must notify your direct supervisor (who will then notify the appropriate associate superintendent) who will reassign the employee to another supervisor or, possibly, to another school or office. See Regulation 511.15-1, “Teaching or Supervising Immediate Family Members.” for more information.

  • May I participate in hiring or other employment decisions affecting someone I am romantically involved with or related to?

    It is important that the hiring and employment decision process be fair to all employees. To ensure that there is no appearance of favoritism or that you are using your position to benefit yourself or your family indirectly, you must excuse yourself from participating in hiring panels or other kinds of employment decisions (such as input into an evaluation or honor) that directly impact a person with whom you are romantically involved or to whom you are related. See Regulation 511.15-1, “Teaching or Supervising Immediate Family Members,” for additional information. You must notify your direct supervisor of such a situation, who will then work with the Department of Human Resources or notify the appropriate associate superintendent to re-assign duties to resolve the conflict.

  • What if my son or daughter attends my school? Can he/she be in my band class?

    Regulation 511.15-1, “Teaching or Supervising Immediate Family Members,” states that “In the event that an immediate family member is the only available source for a specific subject or grade level, written permission shall be obtained by the principal from the appropriate associate superintendent.”

  • May I accept gifts from my students’ parents at holiday time and at the end of the year?

    Generally, PWCS employees may receive gifts from parents or community members to thank them for their service or at times and on occasions where gifts are traditionally given (e.g., employee appreciation days, birthdays, weddings, birth of a child, end of school year).

    Virginia’s Conflict of Interest law, however, restricts employees from receiving overly generous gifts and also in the following three situations: (1) when the acceptance of the gift may reasonably tend to influence the employee in the performance of the employee’s official duties; (2) when the gift is given by a person by who has interests that may be substantially affected by the performance of the employee’s duties under circumstances where the timing and nature of the gift would cause a reasonable person to question the employee’s impartiality in a matter affecting a donor; and (3) when gifts are accepted from a donor on so frequent a basis that it raises the appearance that the employee is using his or her position for private gain. The Conflict of Interest law also prohibits employees from accepting a business or professional opportunity when the employee knows there is a reasonable likelihood that the opportunity is being given to influence the employee’s performance of his or her PWCS job duties.

    Consequently, you should always consider whether the timing, size, and the nature of the gift or gifts would raise questions about whether it is influencing how you are performing your job – could someone think the donor, or a student is getting special treatment or otherwise would look inappropriate? Would you feel comfortable if others knew the value and circumstances of the gift? If you receive a gift that seems unduly lavish or otherwise inappropriate, discuss the matter with your supervisor. who may consult with the Department of Human Resources for an appropriate response.

  • Can I bring my children’s fundraisers (e.g., cookies, chocolate, candy) to work to sell to my co-workers?

    Before you bring in fundraising items, you must get advanced written approval of your principal or director. You cannot sell or solicit on the job site while performing your regular assigned duties or during your scheduled work hours. For more information, refer to Regulation 503.03-1, “Solicitation and Selling.”

  • I made a copy of a party invitation on the office copier. Is that a problem?

    Employees may make occasional or limited use of PWCS equipment for their personal benefit if the cost of the use is negligible, it does not interfere with the employee’s official duties, and it does not conflict with any other Board policy or regulation.

  • May I require that the students I am coaching attend my summer camp for volleyball? May I advertise my camp to my students?

    You may not promote, encourage, or require PWCS students to attend any non-school program, business or activity in which you have a personal interest. You must avoid even the appearance of impropriety which might arise if your personal interest in such noon-school program, business or activity  conflicts with your authority and responsibilities as a PWCS employee. Employees with a personal interest in a non-school program, business or activity in which PWCS students or other employees are enrolled must disclose that interest on Attachment A to Regulation 503.04-1.

  • Can I select a player for my high school team if he/she pays to attend a camp in which I have a personal financial interest?

    You must address this situation with your supervisor and complete Attachment A to the regulation. This will give you an opportunity to declare a possible/potential conflict and develop a plan with your supervisor to   mitigate the risk of appearing to unduly favor a particular student or students. Depending on the circumstances, you may have an unavoidable conflict of interest which will preclude you from making such a selection.

  • If I get six students to sign-up for a tour of Tuscany this year through a private company, I get to go for free. Is this a problem?

    You must complete Attachment A to Regulation 503.04-1, Conflict of Interest, and have the acceptance of free travel approved by your principal after consultation with the Associate Superintendent for Human Resources.   It is possible, but, depending on the circumstances, this situation could create a conflict of interest for you.

  • What if my school or the School Division is paying my travel expenses?

    In that scenario, no conflict exists, provided you are not in receipt of other benefits from the vendor.

Questions Relating to Tutoring and Other Forms of Non-School Employment

  • What are the rules on tutoring?

    Tutoring is additional, special, or remedial instruction that occurs outside the school day for payment.      You may not tutor a student in your own class or to whom you provide other services.

  • The parents of a child who attends my school, but is not one of my students, have approached me and asked whether I would be willing to tutor their son. I do not advertise my services, so they heard about me from parents of other students I have tutored. Their son’s teacher did not say the tutoring was necessary. The parents would pay me, and I would go to their home after school using my own materials. May I do this?

    Yes, you may tutor a student who is not assigned to your class, and the facts you have described do not raise any concern under the regulation or the conflict of interest law.

  • Are there any exceptions to the rule on tutoring?

    Exceptions may be made by the Superintendent or his/her designee (Associate Superintendent for Human Resources) on a case-by-case basis in rare circumstances.

  • Can I tutor students this year who I may have next year?

    There is nothing in our regulations that would prevent you from tutoring students in other classes in your school or who might potentially become your student. However, you may not tutor the student once he/she is in your class.

  • I am the only band teacher at my high school. Can I tutor my students individually after school?

    You cannot accept money from a parent or guardian to tutor your own students. If your school holds an after-school program and you are paid by PWCS or your PTA/PTO, this would not be an issue.

  • I leave work right after my students leave in order to get to my second job. Do I need to take leave if there is an after-school staff meeting?

    Regulation 561.02-1, “Certificated Personnel: Workday and Responsibilities”, requires that staff meetings be contiguous with the teacher workday, except in emergencies and unusual situations where the needs of the school require that these meetings be held at other times. Other duties necessary to the best interest of the schools may be required beyond a teacher’s 7-hour day such as bus duty, attendance at meetings and conferences, supervision of student activities, and other similar duties. A second job would not excuse a teacher from attending staff meetings that are within or contiguous to the contractual workday.

  • Every year I sign up to score AP exams and get paid by the testing company. What kind of leave should I take for the week?

    You may use personal, annual, or leave without pay, if you are being paid to work by an outside entity. For additional information, please contact the appropriate associate superintendent.

  • I am a Sign Language Interpreter who gets paid a lot more to work for a private company. Can I refuse to come to a Back-to-School Night at my school because I am working at my second job?

    No, your PWCS responsibilities take priority over any permissible outside employment. It is your responsibility to notify your non-PWCS employer of any scheduling conflicts with your PWCS job responsibilities and to make arrangements with your non-PWCS employer to work-out schedules or other issues that may conflict with your PWCS work. 

  • I am a PE teacher but teach gymnastics at a local academy on the weekends. I had two students from my elementary school sign-up. Is this a problem? The parents pay the Academy and not me.

    This depends on whether and what type of compensation you receive from the Academy and whether you have promoted the business or solicited the students. If your compensation is less than $5000 annually and you have not promoted the academy or solicited the students, it may not be a problem. However, if you teach and grade those students as a physical education teacher, it could be perceived as a conflict. Again, best practice is to speak with your supervisor and complete and submit Attachment A to Regulation 503.04-1, “Conflict of Interest.”

Other Issues Related to Engaging in Non-PWCS Employment, Including Use of PWCS Resources 

  • I work for a private tutoring company in the summer. Can I send flyers home with my struggling students in June?

    No, a teacher may not use a school or Division website to promote his/her private tutoring service or send home flyers for a particular company. Any distribution or posting of materials in schools by outside sources in PWCS must comply with Regulation 925-1, “Distribution of Communications from Outside Sources.” That regulation does not permit commercial or profit-making businesses or enterprises to distribute or post materials to students even if the business or enterprise is associated with a PWCS employee.   

  • I have access to the list of my school’s parent and student email addresses. May I use this information to create a mailing list for my non-school employer? I also know which students are likely to benefit from or be interested in our services. Can I share this information with my non-school employer or use it to start my own client list?

    No. A PWCS employee is required by federal and state law and by PWCS policy to maintain the confidentiality of student information. Information obtained in the course of your job or taken from student records may not be used or accessed by a PWCS officer or employee for a commercial purpose. PWCS school officials and employees may only access or use such information if it is necessary for them to carry out their job responsibilities for PWCS. Disclosure of such information to any third party is a violation of state and federal law, unless such disclosure is approved by PWCS under a legal exemption to those student confidentiality laws.

  • May I use my classroom or borrow school or office equipment to use for my second job?

    PWCS permits employees to make occasional or limited use of PWCS equipment for their personal benefit, if the cost of the use is negligible, but use of PWCS equipment to support a for-profit activity is not permitted. PWCS employees engaged in for-profit activities may use building space in accordance with PWCS community use regulations on the same basis as other businesses. 

  • May high school coaches have outside business interests in the sport they coach?

    Yes, School Division officials and employees may receive compensation and/or have an economic or personal interest in outside businesses or programs, but only when such interest does not conflict with the official’employees’ duties or responsibilities to the School Division.  An economic interest in an outside business or paid activity is inconsistent with a PWCS official’employees’ duties if the business or activity provides compensation for activities or functions which are part of the official’employees’ duties with the Division, if the official/strongployee uses his/her position with PWCS or access to PWCS students, facilities or other resources to benefit such outside business or activity, or if such involvement could compromise the confidentiality of students or other employees of the Division in the pursuit of private gain or advantage. In a situation in which a coach has a private, personal,  and/or economic interest in an outside business interest or activity which could create a conflict of interest or create the appearance of a conflict of interest,  , disclosure of that interest, consultation with the supervisor and submission of Attachment I to Regulation 503.04-1, “Conflict of Interest,” is required. The attachment and any plan developed to avoid a conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict of interest must be approved and monitored by the supervisor (usually the Director of Athletics or principal) and a copy sent to the Director of Student Learning and the Department of Human Resources.

  • May a DSA or Head Coach invite outside vendors to speak to their student-athletes about outside of school for-profit training?

    This practice does not conform to policy and regulations concerning conflict of interest and solicitation and selling (see above).  Outside vendors are not permitted to solicit student athletes without the written permission of the principal, which should only be given in unusual circumstances.

Doing Business with PWCS While an Employee

  • Can I work as a substitute or teach adult education classes while on FMLA?

    An employee who is on leave from PWCS, in a paid or unpaid status, may not be employed by PWCS in any capacity except with the written authorization of the Associate Superintendent for Human Resources.

  • My family owns a company that would like to do business with PWCS. Is there anything that prohibits that?

    The Virginia Conflict of Interests law generally prohibits school employees from having a personal interest in a contract with the School Division other than the employee’s own contract of employment. A personal interest is defined as owning at least 3% of the business or receiving compensation (including salary) of at least $5,000 from the business. In addition, a conflict of interest may arise under the Ethics in Contracting Act, which is a part of Virginia’s Public Procurement Act, for an employee who has responsibility for a procurement transaction (any function pertaining to the obtaining of any goods, services, or construction).

  • Who oversees Regulation 503.04-1, “ Conflict of Interest?”

    The Associate Superintendent for Human Resources is responsible for monitoring this regulation as the designee for the Superintendent. A committee with representation from the Superintendent’s Staff, legal counsel, and the Offices of Financial Services and Student Learning review disclosure forms and make a determination in the best interest of the School Division, our students, and PWCS employees. Employees who do not comply with the policy and regulation may be subject to disciplinary consequences.